The National Gallery of Victoria, in partnership with Art Exhibitions Australia, presents Van Gogh and the Seasons for the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series in 2017. Curated by Sjraar van Heugten (independent art historian and former Head of Collections at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Van Gogh and the Seasons is internationally exclusive to Melbourne.
The seasons had profound meaning for Van Gogh: they represented the circle of life within nature – birth, bloom, maturity and death. For the artist, this ongoing cycle represented the greatness of nature and the existence of a higher force. Van Gogh repeatedly painted scenes that richly evoke the sensory pleasures or deprivations particular to each season – spring-time, with its blossoming orchards and flowering meadows; summer, with fields of ripe wheat shimmering under the hot sun; autumn, with bountiful harvests and solitary figures sowing seeds as dusk approaches; and winter, with peasants digging potatoes out of frozen fields, or sharing a meagre meal by candlelight.
The exhibited works depict places that were the setting for many defining moments in the artist’s tumultuous life – the Dutch region of Brabant, where Van Gogh was born in 1853 and lived for much of his early life; Arles, where the artist experienced his most defining period of creativity; Saint-Rémy de Provence, where he was treated for mental illness in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum; and Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890.
Van Gogh and the Seasons features works lent by leading international museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (which respectively hold the largest and second largest collections of works by Van Gogh in the world). It features fifty works by Van Gogh, presented within sections devoted to each of the four seasons. Additional documentary material, including works from Van Gogh’s own art collection, provide fascinating context and show ‘the seasons’ as a subject of perennial interest to artists of many different cultures and eras.
The exhibition invites viewers to contemplate Van Gogh’s life and experiences through his observations of the seasonal changes within the natural world. Drawing extensively from Van Gogh’s letters and from research into his deep interest in literature and nature, Van Gogh and the Seasons explores the influences and themes that dominate much of this visionary artist’s work.
The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, a children’s publication, a dynamic program of talks, tours and events and the curated NGV Friday Nights program, featuring live music, food and performances.